Israeli settlers from Ma’ale Adumim, an illegal Israeli settlement in Jerusalem, are coordinating different initiatives through a WhatsApp group aimed at diminishing the Palestinian presence in the city.
According to The Times of Israel, these efforts include boycotting and intimidating businesses serving Palestinians with work permits.
An Israeli watchdog group, Fake Reporter, was the first to detect the WhatsApp group called “Restoring Security”, which is controlled by Shiran Mirzai and Moti Peretz, who are running as candidates in the upcoming municipal elections representing Otzma Yehudit, led by extreme far-right National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir.
One message in the WhatsApp group complained about a gym being “Islamicised” as a result of it being used by Arabs. Following pressure from the group, the gym announced that it would restrict membership to settlers from the Ma’ale Adumim settlement only.
Additionally, another member expressed anger at a local shopping mall’s Facebook page, which included an Arabic translation due to the employment of many Palestinians. Some users warned that failure to make this change would result in a boycott of the mall’s products and referred to Palestinians as “rats”.
According to The Times of Israel, when confronted by the interviewer, who drew parallels between the Nazi rhetoric against Jewish people, Mirzai and Peretz rejected any connection.
“There’s no racism with us. It’s only a concern for our city,” Mirzai said.
Moreover, another participant within the group threatened to disclose the identities of driving instructors who transported Palestinian students from Al-Azariya, known as Area E1, East of Jerusalem in the Occupied West Bank to the illegal Israeli settlement.
The user said, “Those who care more about money than our city will be hurt in the most painful place. Driving instructors that commit not to teach them in our city are invited to send me a message and will receive a free advertisement in our WhatsApp group and Facebook.”
Achiya Schatz, the CEO of Fake Reporter, stated to Kan that their findings in Ma’ale Adumim revealed one of the most abusive organisations they had encountered. He said, “What we discovered in Ma’ale Adumim was one of the most blatant and abusive organisations that we have seen in a long time.”
He added that this group, consisting of hundreds of members, arranged vengeful actions against businesses and specific individuals in the city due to their interactions with Arabs and that similar groups are active in other cities, such as Ramle and Lod.
The settlement of Ma’ale Adumim has been growing since 1975; it is now home to more than 37,000 illegal Israeli settlers.